As an old man and a head of a powerful group of Yakuza, Raiga Fujimura pretty much did whatever he wanted these days. Today, he was reading the newspaper and while sitting on his porch in a tiger-print bathrobe. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of something red, and he immediately began folding his paper.

"Shirou Emiya!" He exclaimed happily. "I hadn't expected to see you!"

He had taken an interest in Shirou years ago as a favor to Kiritsugu, an old friend of his. In many respects he was the boy's guardian, managing the estate of Kiritsugu until the boy was old enough to do it himself. Raiga liked the boy, and he had put a lot more effort into the kid than Kiritsugu had required.

Shirou just smiled quietly at the man's friendliness. "Hello, Mr. Fujimura, I know that… this visit is unexpected."

"Not unpleasant, though." Raiga set down his folded paper down on the coffee table and gestured for Shirou to sit. "What's eating ya, kid? Did my darling granddaughter break something again?" Shirou did not come by unnanounced all that often, but when he did it was usually something to do with his granddaughter, Taiga.

"No, Taiga's been… fine, lately." Shirou sat down, and seemed to consider his words carefully. "It's something from my dad's past. Some… people from back then are in town. They're causing trouble. I don't think I can stay uninvolved."

Raiga lifted an eyebrow at that. "Damn." He had not known Kiritsugu's past that well, but it seemed safe to say that it had been what could charitably be called 'colorful.' "It goes without saying," Raiga stated, "But I'm guessing that you don't want the Fujimura group's help on this?"

Shirou shook his head. "It's not that I wouldn't take your help for something like this. The stakes are high enough, it's just that..."

"We would make things worse."

Shirou looked at him in surprise. "Yes, exactly that."

"Not my first time around this block, kid. But why are you here then?"

Shirou rubbed the back of his neck. "Well, I was hoping that my dad had left something behind that might be useful… I'm kind of grasping at straws here, and I figured that if he had... Well, it would either have to be you or Ryuudo. You were his closest friends."

"And you came to me first, because whatever you need right now is almost certainly illegal!" Raiga laughed. Shirou did not. Raiga hopped out of his seat. "Well, only one thing to do then. Kubo!" He called to a man wearing a suitcoat near the bushes. "Get the crate out of the back room! Kid here needs to go through his dad's goody bag."

The life bled out from the young man's eyes as he sank to the ground. He was a salaryman, newly out of school and successful. Working late, he had encountered a beautiful woman… he had been unable to help staring at her. She had turned to look at him… and then… and then…

The hero of class Lancer pulled her teeth from the man's neck, wiping the blood from her mouth on the sleeve of the black cloak she wore over her dress.

Shinji Matou, standing a few feet away, smiled. He was no sadist, at least not in the pure sense. He derived no pleasure from the pain he was inflicting here. No, Shinji was not smiling because the man in front of him was dying. He was smiling because he was getting what he wanted.

He always did get what he wanted, eventually. When you were a real-life super genius, it was just a matter of time. Girls, accolades, resources, whatever it was, he could find an angle. And that was the trick, remembering that the angle was there. A lot of people would have looked at his current situation and mocked him. What did he hope to accomplish here, fighting a war between mages as a kid with absolutely no mana at all?

He hoped nothing. He planned on winning the damn thing, if only because he was sick of his father and mother and grandfather and sister and everyone looking down on him. He had always been the unfavorite, the disappointment. After he achieved something that the entirety of his family had failed at for generations, they'd be forced to admit what he had known all along: that he was better than them all in every way.

Hunting people down like this and draining them was tedious and slightly risky, but Shinji had done his homework. Lancer would eventually be able to use her Noble Phantasm to drain the whole school. When that happened they could do whatever they pleased, but in the meantime they were extremely vulnerable. Hiding away until the Noble Phantasm was completed would not guarantee safety. They had contended with Caster already, and it was clear that for a servant, Lancer was pretty weak even in front-line combat, her supposed specialty. Caster should have had to run from them, not the other way around!

Suddenly, his servant was directly beside him, alert and on the defensive. "What the hell are you still doing here, Lancer?" He groused. "You're supposed to be hunting."

She simply pointed.

Walking toward them was a woman in a crisp suit and tie. A clear foreigner, given her short-cropped magenta hair. Her face was gray, and murder was in her eyes. The sleeve of her suit had been torn off at the elbow, and her bared arm gleamed in the moonlight. Shinji clenched his teeth. Whether this was a master or a servant coming for them, the reaction had to be the same.

"Oh! You must be a fellow participant in this war!" Shinji called out. "Want to team up?" The woman ignored him, continuing towards him.

In a few seconds she would be on top of them. "Lancer." He commanded. "Teach the bitch some manners."

Lancer rushed her enemy, her scythe snaking out with a deadly thirst. Lancer had access to pitiful reserves of mana at the moment, but she spared a little to enhance her strength, striking as quickly as she was capable of in her reduced state. A protracted fight would be a disaster.

Her fastest was too slow. The woman ducked past her scythe, slamming her with a punch that Lancer could only barely dodge, even with her enhanced strength. She blocked the next hit with the haft of her scythe but was still thrown off her feet by the raw force of the punch. How was this woman so strong? The woman's foot came down and Lancer rolled into a crouch a few feet away. The concrete she had been lying on moments ago was pulverized.

Lancer briefly noted that the woman's metallic arm had begun glowing dimly, and then a force like a truck full of bricks slammed into her, throwing her a hundred feet back into a lamppost.

Shinji cursed. What had even hit Lancer? He had not been able to see it! One second she was performing pitifully, and the next she was...

He did not have time to worry about that. The woman had resumed her approach. His hand went straight for his pocket and drew out a weapon, but before he could do anything with it, the woman had closed with him and twisted his arm, weapon and all, behind his back. Shinji fell to his knees with a scream, bracing himself for a killing blow.

When the killing blow did not come, he smiled. The hand twisted behind his back exploded as a dozen massive vipers surged from it, latching onto the woman and forcing her back. She moved with mechanical precision, killing one after another, but even so she was quickly entangled. Shinji, still smirking, stood, and waved his hand again. The snakes changed into chains, binding his opponent completely.

Shinji laughed aloud as he stood. His 'weapon' had been a dozen long strands of purple hair from the head of his servant. His servant was a manifestation of the myth of Medusa. As such, her hairs could be the hairs of Medusa when she was a goddess, the snakes that had been atop the head of her monstrous form, or the chains associated with her weapon of choice. Changing them from one to the other required only a thought on behalf of his servant.

"Thought that I'd be easy prey, did you?" He called out. Lancer moved in for the kill.

A soft voice whispered into Shinji's ear. "Stop her before she does something foolish, dear." He felt the cold steel of a dagger touch his throat.

"STOP!" Shinji wailed, and Lancer halted, her scythe inches from taking off the woman's head. "What… Whatever you do, don't..." Oh shit, the first lady had been wearing modern clothes, which meant that if this was a master/servant team, the lady who had a knife to his throat was probably a Servant. "Don't kill her, Lancer."

The soft voice in his ear laughed softly. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his head. Something was behind him, threatening to kill him, and he could not turn around to look at her. He could not…

Lancer was the first one to speak. "It looks like we're at an impasse."

The soft cold voice chuckled. "Hardly. I like my little puppet, and losing my master again would be a pain, but she's far from irreplaceable."

Lancer smirked. "That's not my master."

That piece of… Shinji swallowed the curse in his throat, blinking tears out of his eyes. Lancer was making the right play here, he knew, but shit, he could not let insolence like this go unpunished. As soon as they were free from this...

The voice behind him laughed aloud now. "A fine attempt at a bluff, but I think that I'll check for myself." Shinji let out a cry of surprise as something stabbed into his back, and felt immediately embarrassed, since the stab had really been more of a pin prick.

The voice from behind him spoke again, but this time it was filled with rage and distress. "How? Why are you..."

Shinji took a deep breath. He had found his angle."Why is she taking orders from me? I'll tell you, sweetheart, but first, why don't you let me go?"

"Oh, but that's not fair..." Shinji felt the servant's body press up against his back as she pulled him closer. "Lancer might not be your servant, but she'll follow your orders, right? Tell her to let my dear little master go, or else I'll cut your throat right now."

Shinji grit his teeth. Shit, shit shit shit! There had to be a way out of this. A bead of blood dripped down onto his collarbone. "Lancer! release the woman, dammit!"

Lancer was unmoved. "He doesn't have command seals, Assassin, and I can clearly see that he's dead if I listen to him."

Shinji growled. This Lancer bitch was really getting on his nerves. "Look, lady," He had meant to sound like he was talking tough, but his voice cracking got in the way of that. "Neither one of us wants to lose something important at this stage of the game, yeah? So you let me go, and Lancer lets punch-lady go, and we discuss this like civilized people."

After a moment's deliberation, the steel against his neck disappeared and Shinji stumbled forward. Lancer wordlessly removed her scythe from the woman's neck. The restrained woman grunted, flexed, and with a few moment's effort broke the chains binding her. Shinji winced. What the hell was up with her, anyway?

He turned to see Assassin, and smiled. She was cute. There was no other word for her. Pointy little elf-ears poked out from short blue hair. She looked like she was Shinji's age, wearing a dress that wouldn't have been out of place at a fancy dinner. In one hand she bore a translucent ritual dagger that was dripping with blood. In the other hand she held a simple steel blade.

If he was being honest, servants scared him. But this was a girl, and he could smooth-talk those into doing anything. "Isn't this better? I'm the one who's in charge of Lancer here, but I got a… well, I guess you could say that I've got a mana cow. I don't want to inhibit my abilities as a magus, see, so I have a subordinate who is providing the mana for Lancer. They'll both follow my orders, but I'm not technically a master in this war.."

"Mmm..." The girl shifted her weight and Shinji followed her movement with an appreciative gaze. "So that's why my Rule Breaker didn't work on you?" She sighed. "It's a serious problem. I'm servant Assasin, you see, so I'm not much good in frontline confrontations. I had hoped that your Lancer might be useful in that regard, but she's clearly weak." Assassin seemed to consider the situation for a moment. "I can leave here easily enough. There's not much you can do to stop me. But I don't want to have too many people coming after me; and I'm guessing that you don't want to spend the rest of this war looking over your shoulder... Say we call a truce for the future?"

Shinji crossed his arms. He wanted… no he needed to get this chick and her insane master onto his side. Sure, he could not trust either of them, but what the hell? She was a chick, he could keep her in line. And he did need some help if he wanted to be sure that he could get the blood-fort up. "I can do you one better. We're both underdogs in this war, right? Why not team up? I've got a plan that will make us unstoppable, but… well, I need time for that plan to materialize. So if you provide security for me… we'll kill one of the other servants, your choice, before we go back to trying to kill each other." He was planning on killing all of the other servants eventually anyway; it was not like this kind of promise actually cost him anything.

Lancer frowned. "Master..."

"Shut up, Servant. You're clearly not strong enough to keep me safe, so I have to outsource."

Assassin seemed to be considering the offer for a moment. "I… think I can do that." She leaned forward until her eyes were nearly at a level with Shinji's. "Any further... exchange of services will have to be discussed later, of course.."

"Oh, good then." Shinji stretched. "I'm tired and all, you know? We're setting up the ritual at Homurahara Academy. Keep watch over there for the next few days, and we'll fulfill our end of the bargain."

Assassin bowed gracefully, and Shinji had to suppress a giggle. He now had four women bending over backward to help him win this grail war. There was always an angle to play, and he always knew how to find it.

Gray thought that wherever her Master's new base was, it was going to be a rather nice change of pace. They were currently somewhere deep underneath Fuyuki City, walking through some kind of massive sewer network. No, sewer tunnels could never be this large. These had to be special anti-flood storm drains. Why else would you build a tunnel five meters high underneath your city?

The air shifted. Clearly they had come to a large open area of some kind. There was the sound of a switch being flipped, and suddenly Gray was blinded as some high-power lights came on.

"It's not much." Waver stated. "But it's as secure as I could make it with only a few days."

They stood in some kind of massive chamber underneath the city. The ground was dry underfoot and massive pillars supported a roof that was a dozen meters or more in the air. On one wall, extension cords had been run out to support a television, fridge, and gaming system. Several threadbare chairs, beds, and a couch had been arranged carelessly in the general area around the TV.

"Ihihi! It's pretty dingy residence for a king to hold court in!" The high, nasal voice emanated from underneath Gray's cloak, and she winced as the two men turned to look at her. Add could be considered her oldest companion, she supposed, but the sentient mystic code was not a pleasant conversationalist.

"Yeah, well… Welcome to Chateau El Melloi, Add." Waver commented, flopping onto the threadbare couch. "Anything you'd care for me to bring in, Rider?"

"I'll make a shopping trip during the day." Rider stated, sitting back in an ancient armchair and sighing heavily. He opened one eye and fixed it upon the game system. "What kinds of games do you have?"

"The whole collection from back home. It's idiotic, but I'll have more time to play them during the Grail War than I typically do back home. Here, take a controller. Let's see what you make of Soul Calibur."

Gray just stood there for a moment, uneasy. It seemed like questioning her Master and Rider at this point would be the height of arrogance, but... "Maahh… Don't either of you have any kind of planning you should be doing?"

Her master just laughed. "Last time I went through this, I made 12 binders full of 'battle plans,' I used not a single one. This time I've left the planning to the experts. Rider, you've already a plan for tonight, right?"

Rider flicked through the character select. "Oh, well. I suppose we'll have to attack that priest."